If you’ve walked into the Southampton or East Hampton Intermix recently, you’ve likely noticed Twenty Tees images splashed across the walls and mannequins draped in the contemporary brand’s designs. Founded by David Helwani—the man behind LaPina by David Helwani, a line of sophisticated after dark dresses—Twenty Tees has quickly risen to become one of the East End’s most beloved fashion brands. Consistently a top seller in trendsetting boutiques, we spoke with Helwani to find out more about his background and why he thinks his brands are so successful.
What made you decide to start Twenty Tees?
I come from a family with a steep tradition in the fashion business. We have a vertically integrated mill, Tricots Liesse, based in Montreal, which has been at the forefront of designer and contemporary sportswear for the last 30 years. Twenty Tees came about as a North American answer to all the great knit tee lines that were being produced in Europe with elevated fabrics and an overall higher level of sophistication.
What made you start LaPina by David Helwani?
The LaPina by David Helwani concept developed out of conversations with some of our key vendors; they felt there was a void in their “going out” or sexier dress category. They loved our day-to-night dresses and felt that with our manufacturing capability and specialization in luxury that this could be a no brainer for our company. From there we developed the main concept of LaPina—dresses with designer level construction, sold at ready-to-wear prices, that women can get excited to wear whether they’re going out with girlfriends or going on a date.
How did your designs and lookbook images end up so prominently featured in Intermix stores?
We definitely see Intermix as one of our key partners and we work very closely with their sportswear buying team. We were notified that the perforated tank was shot for their company Spring 2013 lookbook, but had no idea it would be a key marketing image for them in advertisements and wall posters for their stores all throughout the country. That was their choice, and we are completely appreciative.
Your pieces are top sellers in the Hamptons. Why do you think they consistently sell so well?
I think Twenty Tees and the Hamptons go hand-in-hand for many reasons. I use the words effortless, cool, edgy and luxurious to define our collection and all those adjectives can easily be adopted when describing the Hamptons. Whether we’re talking about our amazing jersey fabrications in exotic cashmere/modal or linen blends or the amazingly soft sweater knit or terrys, our pieces consistently sell well in the Hamptons because of their ease of use and flexibility.
Can you single out some items you consider must haves for summer 2013 in the Hamptons?
Our perforated and mesh tops. They’re great for a day at the pool or beach and you can easily dress them up for a night out. Our “Perfect” modal jersey and rib tee are also essential to anyone’s wardrobe. Crop tops have been popping up quite a bit this summer and I predict they’ll be a staple for most lines next spring.
You collaborated with The Surf Lodge to design and manufacture their branded line. How did that come about?
The Surf Lodge was looking to begin a branded push in the apparel business and we’re known as knit experts, especially in the upper tier of sportswear. It seemed that their vision of a luxurious tee line meshed seamlessly with our core competency.
What can we expect from both of your lines for Spring 2014?
I always get very excited before our spring season’s unveiling since we originally began as a warm weather brand. We’re introducing new perfect tees and tanks and some incredibly innovative new meshs, jerseys and speckled fabrics that were developed exclusively for the line. At this point in our brand’s timeline, we have come to be perceived as industry leaders on fabrication and trends so our team takes this on as a challenge to keep pushing ourselves to turn the otherwise expected into something completely fresh and surprising.